Language-learning startup goes back to basics

“This is my life’s purpose, I truly believe,” says Michelle Glorieux, founder of TA-DA! Photo: Mehdi Farahmand / Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce 

“This is my life’s purpose, I truly believe,” says Michelle Glorieux, founder of TA-DA! Photo: Mehdi Farahmand / Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce 

Technology has opened up countless doors for language learning, but a young company in Luxembourg has wilfully decided to close one of them: its product is not an app. TA-DA!, founded by Michelle Glorieux in 2018, is entirely screenless.

“We are the first language-learning solution that marries both the physical and digital world in one product,” says Glorieux.

The product is books: TA-DA! publishes a range of titles for kids aged 0–14 who want to learn English, Spanish, German, French or Chinese, with more languages—including Luxembourgish—on the horizon.

Glorieux calls it a “tactile experience” and stresses the importance of that for children. “Parents want to do everything they can for their kids’ creativity when they’re little,” she says. “After that, they can work on their coding genius side.”

The digital aspect of the books is an audio element that, Glorieux explains, goes beyond the typical audio track that accompanies a textbook. “We worked with a music director who is very well known,” she says.

“That’s how [acclaimed banjo player] Béla Fleck came into the project,” she adds.

“We’re constantly asking for favours”

TA-DA!’s success is bolstered by its many partnerships, including with linguists, parents, musicians and illustrators.

“We’re constantly asking for favours,” says Glorieux. On the hunt for educational partners, she recounts, she approached the Autonomous University of Mexico, fully expecting to be ignored. “Typically, as a startup, you [start at the top and] work your way down because you’re nobody. But we got lucky—our number one choice said yes.”

Many contributors don’t even need any prompting, apparently. “A lot of moms, even teachers, write me offering to help me for free.”

Some have asked for internships and, when Glorieux said that there was no money for it, insisted on joining as unpaid interns anyway.

In fact, apart from “some contractors”, nobody has been remunerated for their efforts. “My entire team has not been paid at all from all the money we’ve raised,” Glorieux says, “so it can all go to products and getting TA-DA! out there.” This is possible, she explains, because her workers and contributors are “people who care”.

The entrepreneur herself is, beyond a doubt, in the same category. As she says quite openly: “This is my life’s purpose, I truly believe.”

This article first appeared in the Delano Innovation & Digital supplement.